Ellen and Ronald Batman survey the damage to the cane crop next to their property at Bidwill.
Ellen and Ronald Batman survey the damage to the cane crop next to their property at Bidwill. Jocelyn Watts

Fire destroys $40,000 in cane

AS ELLEN Batman pottered in her garden late yesterday morning the faint smell of smoke tickled her nose.

One hour later she saw the flames.

The fierce winds lashing through the canefields beside Ellen’s and her husband Ronald’s one-acre Bidwill Road property had fanned the flames of what emergency services believe to be a deliberately-lit fire.

“The flames reached the top of the crops and there was ash flying everywhere,” she said.

“The noise was terrible.``

“I called triple-0 and then my son-in-law came over to hose down our house and roof.

“I saw the fire come straight towards us but then it veered off and burnt out to the side.”

The fire came within five metres of the Batmans’ side fence.

About 10 hectares of young cane crops, however, were ruined.

The sugarcane belonged to Maryborough Sugar Factory and had an estimated value of $40,000.

MSF agriculture manager Trevor Crook said the crop would have weighed about 750 tonnes by harvest time.

“It’s really disappointing,” he said.

“We’d spent a lot of money fertilising it and getting the crop really healthy and now we have to harvest it and just dump it somewhere and replant.

“If anyone wants some forage for their cattle they should call us.”

Two sugar factory employees and the Tinana Rural Fire Brigade helped fight the fire, Maryborough’s acting fire station officer John Wheeler said.

“It appeared to have started at the bottom corner of the canefield,” he said.

“We put some of the fire out but the wind was pretty strong, which made it difficult, so we had to let the rest burn out.

“We managed to stop the fire jumping to an adjoining canefield and our main concern was protecting the house.

“We don’t know how it started and we have reported it to police as a suspicious fire.”

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.



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